Cycle 23-24 sun-spot predictions. Click to enlargeIn a post last year titled Solar Activity Modeling: Great Predictions, Lousy Understanding? I described the current state of solar cycle modeling. Solar storm cycles are approximately 11 years in length.
We are now entering Cycle 24, which will start in March 2008, and reach a peak in 2015. The prediction from the NOAA (National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration) is that "the Earth will soon experience a period of intense solar storms and the exact number of solar storms expected will become clearer in time."
Read the NOAA release of these findings here. This is an excellent article that describes how sunspots form, the nature of the 11-year cycles, and how the predictions are made. Sun spot activity can be extremely deleterious to transportation and communication infrastructure, and therefore predictions have to be accurate. The care with which the predictions are made is evident in the statement by solar-physicist Doug Biesecker:
“…there are approximately six techniques used to predict the intensity of a solar cycle,” said Biesecker. “The first three are based on statistics and provide a sound historical baseline upon which to forecast future cycles. The other three are based on physics and the sun’s dynamo conveyer belt theory.”
An overview of these techniques can be found in last year’s post.